Do we make decisions based on race? Although most people would answer no to this question, a new study suggests that we may actually be doing just that unconsciously. Psychologists at the New York University laboratory of Professor Elizabeth Phelps conducted a trial to determine if people made decisions based on racial biases. The two elements examined were trustworthiness and economic or business decisions. “Decisions in the worlds of business, law, education, medicine, and even more ordinary daily interactions between individuals, all rely on trust,” the researchers wrote. “In an increasingly globalized economy, that trust must be forged between individuals who differ in background, shared experiences, and aspirations.”
The results revealed that individuals who were biased toward a specific race perceived faces of the same ethnicity as more trustworthy. “These results provide evidence that decisions we may believe to be consciously determined are, in fact, not entirely so, and suggest that this may have a very real cost for individuals and society,” they continued. “Whom we trust is not only a reflection of who is trustworthy, but also a reflection of who we are.”
Additionally, the same results were found when the participants were asked which race they would choose for business and economic decisions. In a related article, the researchers explain that people make decisions based on both an explicit and implicit mental process. The explicit process uses intentional decision-making and forms choices based on judgments and outward perceptions. Our implicit mental process is most often an unconscious process of choosing and occurs without a person’s awareness.
The evidence gathered from this study leads researchers to believe that implicit social biases may be catalysts for immediate evaluations of strangers. Unless our minds have more information on which to make explicit decisions, our implicit mental process will supersede those evaluations.
© Copyright 2011 by By Noah Rubinstein, LMFT, LMHC, therapist in Olympia, Washington. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to GoodTherapy.org.
The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by GoodTherapy.org. Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.